College leaders usually brag about their tech-filled "smart" classrooms, but a dean at Southern Methodist University is proudly removing computers from lecture halls. José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, has challenged his colleagues to "teach naked"—by which he means, sans machines.
And what is the cause of this new Luddite movement? Fear of social media breaking down traditional classroom hierarchies? Confusion over cloud computing and the meltdown in sales of proprietary software packages? Concern over mobile computing and Wi-Fi devices disturbing class?
No. None of that.
More than any thing else, Mr. Bowen wants to discourage professors from using PowerPoint, because they often lean on the slide-display program as a crutch rather using it as a creative tool.
Um. Yeah. Seriously.
Haven't most of us realized for a long time that PP is rather limited? Isn't that part of the reason we've been bringing active media into our classrooms for a while now?
I don't know, maybe this is just a K-12 teacher vs. college teacher thing, but I kinda thought everyone already KNEW lectures were by-and-large yawn-fests.
[If you have Diigo installed (and face it, by now you have no reason not to), go bookmark and check out the meta-analysis battle going on over the Chronicle report.]
So, what's Bowen's big idea?
His philosophy is that the information delivery common in today's classroom lectures should be recorded and delivered to students as podcasts or online videos before class sessions.
I don't mean to be so obviously disrespectful, but I can't quite put into words how I feel about this. In one respect, I find it deeply funny. In another deeply disturbing.
I mean, this is all so... obvious.
Rather than try to re-construe, here are the comments I left over at the Dig Ed blog:
PowerPoint is hardly state of the art 'technology'.
PowerPoint presentations are precisely the sort of things so many of us in ed tech are trying to steer folks away from.
So I guess, in that sense, me and the dean are in agreement. Power Point often leads to a passive audience watching a lecture.
Where we disagree is in the 'naked' classroom concept. And this has to do with the fact that if the dean thinks PowerPoint is what we're talking about when we're talking about technology, then he's only demonstrating that he has no idea about what technology is.
We're talking social media, cloud computing, mobile applications.
Tech that actively integrates into learning.
Sounds like Bowen needs to catch up with what's actually happening in ed tech. He's a bit behind the times.
And that's really my concern. I realize I'm being a bit rough on him here, but here's a guy with a relatively prominent voice being quoted in a relatively prominent journal making statements about removing computers from classrooms -- and this is a guy who (apparently with the possible exception that he knows how to make a podcast of a lecture) -- obviously has no idea what the current state of educational technology is.
I'm all for getting rid of PowerPoint. I haven't used the damn thing in years. But, please, Mr. Bowen, have the tact to distinguish between passive and active technologies.
It's not tech vs. no tech.
It's active tech vs. passive tech.
And if you don't know the difference, just raise your hand and ask. If it's discussion and engagement you are looking for, there are plenty of social technologies that will enhance conversation and learning in any class. In fact, there are plenty of teachers using these technologies everyday in fantastic ways.
Social technologies empower teachers and students. Access to the Web and its information and communication features is vital to education, not a hindrance. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
What I'd suggest is that you let you teachers keep their smart classrooms and start investing time into teaching them how to integrate social and participatory media into their teaching.
Get engaged with what's going on.